TITUSVILLE, Fla. – A Michigan man claims he was wrongly arrested for a DUI by Brevard County sheriff’s deputies, and he is now suing for punitive damages.
Jon Schoonmaker told News 6 he and his wife traveled through Port St. John in January 2018, and they were looking for a SpaceX rocket that was scheduled to be launched across the Indian River that night.
“I probably was driving kind of slow,” Schoonmaker said. “(I was) just kind watching the sky, seeing if anything’s happening, and ended up getting pulled over.”
Dash camera video obtained from the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office by Schoonmaker’s attorney shows Schoonmaker’s car drifting in his lane before he was pulled over.
Out of the car, the video shows Schoonmaker informing the deputy he was on a Z-Pack, an antibiotic, for a sinus infection.
According to a document issued by the medication’s manufacturer, Pfizer, “This medicine is not expected to affect your ability to drive a car or operate machinery.”
The video shows the deputy conduct a field sobriety test on Schoonmaker, a test the deputy claims he failed.
“At this point, I have no choice but to place you under arrest for a DUI,” the deputy is heard telling him.
“I was stunned,” Schoonmaker said. “Of course, I’m saying I don’t drink because I don’t, and (my wife) is saying we don’t drink because we don’t, and (we have) not used any substances, and what is going on?”
Schoonmaker works as a trauma counselor in Michigan, where he also helps some patients with drug and alcohol issues.
He said he has never had a drink or done drugs.
He said he spent 22 hours at the Brevard County Jail before posting bond and providing a urine test.
He said it would take 87 days for the result of the test to be delivered, and it showed he had no drugs or alcohol in his system.
The Office of the State Attorney dropped the charge against him.
Then, he said, he heard what the deputies discussed after he was in handcuffs.
“I’m thinking it was the Z-Pack,” one deputy is heard saying.
“I was going to say you should’ve just let her (expletive) drive and let him go, but it’s too late now. Too late now,” another deputy is heard saying.
“I was so shaken by what I heard,” he said.
“Those simple words by that specific deputy shows that they had some hesitation throughout the investigation,” said News 6 Traffic Safety Expert Trooper Steve Montiero.
Montiero said in this case, it appears the deputies chose arrest over risking public safety.
News 6 contacted the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office to ask if this case had been reviewed and if there was anything Sheriff Wayne Ivey wanted to say to Schoonmaker.
A spokesperson said they could not comment because Schoonmaker had filed a lawsuit.
The federal lawsuit was filed the first week of January, and it claims Schoonmaker was wrongly arrested, his civil rights were violated and it seeks punitive damages against the sheriff’s office.
“Something has to change, number one in the training,” Schoonmaker said. “It felt as though that once he decided to arrest me, there was no going back, even once he got more information.”